Bringing home baby
I’d imagined how it would be; bringing home baby Abba. I’d pull into the driveway with her in the back, the two former herd mates would run up to her and they’d kiss noses and jump with glee when they saw their old herd mate.
Just Florentina and her buckling seemed too small of a herd for her to feel safe. So I went back to our friend’s beautiful herd of Nubian, Saanen, and Alpine mix and got Abba. Florentina and Abba have the same mother. So, I thought they’d be like sisters.
It’s a four-hour round trip to Eureka Springs but seeing old friends there makes it well worth it and I wanted to get goats from someone I knew. I’d watched our friend Bill King’s Facebook posts of making beautiful cheese from his goats’ milk and I needed his tutelage for this new venture.
The first thing that Abba did when I popped open the hatch was to fix her gaze on Catalunya and begin bleating. He immediately heralded her arrival.
Abba had a rough time getting out of the car. She was frozen trying to take in the new environment. I imagined her traumatized by the way I’d caught her. Rodeo style. Trap her in the barn, pick her up, put her in the car, and take off. I hated treating her with such disrespect, but, it seemed that trying to build her trust, then ripping her from the herd would have been worse and I wanted to get through the narrow and windy road (known as The Pig Trail) before dark.
I kept looking to Florentina and Buckminster awaiting the sweet goat reunion moment with baby sissy. Florentina head butted her the instant she finally, reluctantly got out of the car. And only then she vacated due to Buckminster head butting and humping her before she could get out. I angrily led the two billy goats gruff to the barn. My frustrated energy upset them more. The doeling ran around absolutely confused and terrified. Alan tried to round her up. This required a stop, drop, and roll to the ground under the barbed wire fence. Something we’ve become good at since Catalunya’s arrival.
As I tried to close the clasps on Florentina and Buckminster’s pen, the doeling ran straight into Catalunya’s pen. This required one of us getting into an open pen with him in order to retrieve the baby. We prayed that he would not kill her. He had not killed Buckminster when the buckling wandered into his pen following Florentina. But, all of my research told us that it was a real possibility.
We yelled back and forth at one another over the barn walls. Florentina and Buckminster ran around their pen terrified by our outbursts . I sat on the floor and prayed “please don’t eat the baby, Cat, please don’t eat the baby.” Alan somehow wrangled her into the barn without a collar or harness. She was loose in the barn. It was around 7:30 and getting dark. It was impossible to catch her again and we were both beyond exhaustion. Catalunya came in looking curious and empathetic. We made her a little straw pile and placed some water and closed the barn door knowing she’d find a way to get out. We just let the spirit take the wheel and soon after fell into bed.
About 11:30 I heard Catalunya bawl and knew something was wrong with the baby. Sure enough, when I went outside, there she was in the driveway, vulnerable, staring through the backyard fence into Cat’s pen. He was watching her. I opened the gate and sat on the deck in a blanket and waited for her to come in from the driveway. I stayed with her in the backyard until around 1:30 hoping she’d come to me for comfort. She still did not trust me. I cried from exhaustion. I sat down by Catalunya and asked him to please look after her through the night ’cause I was done. I hoped she’d be alive in the morning. She was. She probably stayed next to his fence all night. I knew if she was in trouble I’d hear Catalunya’s alarm.
I’d researched fencing for the goats and had been planning to move them around the property with a movable electric fence like the farmers in Mother Earth News magazine do. I’d watched YouTube videos of a homesteading couple Art and Bri and their hipster homesteading, homeschooling family. They demonstrate how easily they are setting up the moveable fence for the first time and watching the goats in order to supervise their getting shocked for the first time. They have to be on hand in case one of the goats charges towards the fence and becomes entangled. One sits ready at the switch.
We pull the wire fence over to the flattest spot we can find and drive the stakes into the god-forsaken rock spawning land. It fell over. The hippy homesteader kids did it with an infant strapped on one’s back and toddler at the hand of the other. Why can’t we figure this out? Alan figures that it’s because North Carolina topsoil is way more forgiving than what we are working with.
We read the directions. Again. After a long while of stretching and propping and pounding, it still sagged a little, but, we let the goats in. Florentina flew straight over the top. Buckminster finally touched it but it did not shock him. We tested the thingy. Sheesh. The electricity was not at the right level. The opportunity to train the buckling was gone. We took it down and moved it to another area as the goats ate my lilac bush and tulips. They have 75 acres to free range and they prefer to stay in the front yard, eat all of my flowers and poop on the front porch. After all of the money we spent on electric wire fencing in twenty acres for Catalunya, none of it will work for goats. We go back to the fence supply piles that have accumulated and I begin to design a goat pen.
The goats are really speeding up Catalunya’s ability to calibrate his actions. Buckminster tests him constantly by going into his pen, walking up behind him, then running away when Catalunya turns to chase him out. Cat softens his approach around the new doeling. He chases her away half heartedly and with a softer touch.
Today is my birthday. I take the goats for a walk around the outside of his pen hoping to guide the integration process. We tromp through the woods and I have to stop, drop, and roll under the barbed wire on occasion as Alan sets more fence posts for the new goat pen.